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Prolegomena to the History of Israel by Julius Wellhausen

Part 11 out of 13

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Thus a certain inner unity actually subsisted long before it
had found any outward political expression; it goes back to
the time of Moses, who is to be regarded as its author.

The foundation upon which, at all periods, Israel's sense of its
national unity rested was religious in its character. It was the
faith which may be summed up in the formula, Jehovah is the God
of Israel, and Israel is the people of Jehovah. Moses was not the
first discoverer of this faith, but it was through him that it
came to be the fundamental basis of the national existence and
history. /1/

1. Jehovah is to be regarded as having originally been a family
or tribal god, either of the family to which Moses belonged or of
the tribe of Joseph, in the possession of which we find the ark of
Jehovah, and within which occurs the earliest certain instance of
a composite proper name with the word Jehovah for one of its
elements (Jeho-shua, Joshua). No essential distinction was felt to
exist between Jehovah and El, any more than between Asshur and
El; Jehovah was only a special name of El which had become
current within a powerful circle, and which on that account was
all the more fitted to become the designation of a national god.

The exigencies of their position severe a number of kindred clans
from their customary surroundings, and drove them into his arms.
He undertook the responsibilities of their leader, and the
confidence of success which he manifested was justified by the
result. But it was not through any merit of his that the
undertaking (of which he was the soul) prospered as it did; his
design was aided in a wholly unlooked-for way, by a marvellous
occurrence quite beyond his control, and which no sagacity could
possibly have foreseen. One whom the wind and sea obeyed had
given him His aid. Behind him stood One higher than he, whose
spirit wrought in him and whose arm wrought for him,--not for his
personal aggrandisement indeed, but for the weal of the nation.
It was Jehovah. Alike what was done by the deliberate purpose of
Moses and what was done without any human contrivance by nature
and by accident came to be regarded in one great totality as the
doing of Jehovah for Israel. Jehovah it was who had directed each
step in that process through which these so diverse elements,
brought together by the pressure of necessity, had been caused to
pass, and in the course of which the first beginnings of a feeling
of national unity had been made to grow.

This feeling Moses was the first to elicit; he it was also who
maintained it in life and cherished its growth. The extraordinary
set of circumstances which had first occasioned the new national
movement continued to subsist, though in a less degree, throughout
the sojourn of the people in the wilderness, and it was under
their pressure that Israel continued to be moulded. To Moses, who
had been the means of so brilliantly helping out of their first
straits the Hebrews who had accompanied him out of Egypt, they
naturally turned in all subsequent difficulties; before him they
brought all affairs with which they were not themselves able to
cope. The authority which his antecedents had secured for him
made him as matter of course the great national "Kadhi" in the
wilderness. Equally as matter of course did he exercise his
judicial functions, neither in his own interest nor in his own
name, but in the interest of the whole community and in the name
of Jehovah. By connecting them with the sanctuary of Jehovah,
which stood at the well of Kadesh, he made these functions
independent of his person, and thus he laid a firm basis for a
consuetudinary law and became the originator of the Torah in
Israel. In doing this he succeeded in inspiring the national
being with that which was the very life of his own soul; through
the Torah he gave a definite positive expression to their sense
of nationality and their idea of God. Jehovah was not merely
the God of Israel; as such he was the God at once of law and
of justice, the basis, the informing principle, and the implied
postulate of their national consciousness.

The relationship was carried on in precisely the same manner as
that in which it had been begun. It was most especially in the
graver moments of its history that Israel awoke to full
consciousness of itself and of Jehovah. Now, at that time and
for centuries afterwards, the highwater marks of history were
indicated by the wars it recorded. The name "Israel" means
"El does battle," and Jehovah was the warrior El, after whom the
nation styled itself. The camp was, so to speak, at once the
cradle in which the nation was nursed and the smithy in which it
was welded into unity; it was also the primitive sanctuary.
There Israel was, and there was Jehovah. If in times of peace the
relations between the two had become dormant, they were at once
called forth into fullest activity when the alarm of danger was
raised; Israel's awakening was always preceded by the awakening
of Jehovah. Jehovah awakened men who under the guidance of His
spirit placed themselves at the nation's head; in them His proper
leadership was visibly expressed. Jehovah went forth with the
host to battle, and in its enthusiasm His presence was seen
(Judges. v. 13, 23). With signs and wonders from heaven Jehovah
decided the struggle carried on upon earth. In it He was always
upon Israel's side; on Israel was His whole interest concentrated,
although His power (for He was God) reached far beyond their local

Thus Jehovah was in a very real sense a living God; but the
manifestations of His life in the great crises of His people's
history were of necessity separated by considerable intervals
of time. His activity had something abrupt and tumultuary about
it, better suited for extraordinary occasions than for ordinary
daily life. Traces of this feeling appear very prominently in
the later stages of the development. But although the relations
between Israel and Israel's God came most strongly into
prominence in times of excitement, yet it did not altogether die
out in the periods of comparative repose. It was in the case of
Jehovah just as in the case of the human leaders of the people, who
did not in times of peace wholly lose the influence they had
gained in war. Jehovah had His permanent court at the places of
worship where in times of quietude men clung to Him that they
might not lose Him in times of trouble. His chief, perhaps in the
time of Moses His only, sanctuary was with the so-called ark of
the covenant. It was a standard, adapted primarily to the
requirements of a wandering and warlike life; brought back from
the field, it became, as symbol of Jehovah's presence, the central
seat of His worship. The cultus itself was more than a mere
paying of court to Jehovah, more than a mere expedient for
retaining His sympathies against times of necessity; the Torah of
Jehovah, the holy administration of law, was conjoined with it.
This had first of all been exercised, at the instance of the
priest of Midian, by Moses at the well of Kadesh; it was
continued after him, at the sanctuary, within the circle of those
who had attached themselves to him and were spiritually his heirs.
In cases where the wisdom or the competency of the ordinary
judges failed, men turned direct to the Godhead, i.e., to the
sanctuary and those who served it. Their decisions, whether
given according to their own lights or by lot (according to the
character of the question), were not derived from any law,
but were received direct from Jehovah. /1/

1 They were consulted chiefly on points of law, but also on all
sorts of difficulties as to what was right and to be done, or
wrong and to be avoided.

The execution of their decisions did not lie with them; they
could only advise and teach. Their authority was divine, or,
as we should say, moral, in its character; it rested upon that
spontaneous recognition of the idea of right which, though
unexpressed, was alive and working among the tribes--upon Jehovah
Himself, who was the author of this generally diffused sense of
right, but revealed the proper determinations on points of detail
only to certain individuals. The priestly Torah was an entirely
unpolitical or rather prepolitical institution; it had an
existence before the state had, and it was one of the invisible
foundation pillars on which the state rested.

War and the administration of justice were regarded as matters
of religion before they became matters of obligation and civil
order; this is all that is really meant when a theocracy is
spoken of. Moses certainly organised no formal state, endowed
with specific holiness, upon the basis of the proposition "Jehovah
is the God of Israel;" or, at all events, if he did so, the fact
had not in the slightest degree any practical consequence or
historical significance. The old patriarchal system of families
and clans continued as before to be the ordinary constitution, if
one can apply such a word as constitution at all to an unorganised
conglomeration of homogeneous elements. What there was
of permanent official authority lay in the hands of the elders
and heads of houses; in time of war they commanded each his own
household force, and in peace they dispensed justice each within
his own circle. But this obviously imperfect and inefficient
form of government showed a growing tendency to break down just
in proportion to the magnitude of the tasks which the nation in
the course of its history was called upon to undertake. Appeal
to Jehovah was always in these circumstances resorted to; His
court was properly that of last resort, but the ordinary authorities
were so inadequate that it had often enough to be applied to.
Theocracy, if one may so say, arose as the complement of anarchy.
Actual and legal existence (in the modern sense) was predicable
only of each of the many clans; the unity of the nation was
realised in the first instance only through its religion. It was
out of the religion of Israel that the commonwealth of Israel
unfolded itself,--not a HOLY state, but THE state. And the state
continued to be, consciously, rooted in religion, which prevented
it from quitting or losing its rapport with the soil from which
it had originally sprung. With the intermediate and higher stages
of political organisation, with the building of the upper structure,
however, religion had no concern; they were too far removed from
the foundation. The derivative, which did not carry immediately
in itself its own title to exist, was a matter of indifference
to it; what had come into being it suffered to go its own way
as soon as it was capable of asserting its independence. For
this reason it always turned by preference to the future, not
in a utopian but in a thoroughly practical way; by a single
step only did it keep ahead of the present. It prepared the
way for such developments as are not derived from existing
institutions, but spring immediately from the depths in
which human society has its secret and mysterious roots.

The expression "Jehovah is the God of Israel," accordingly, meant
that every tosk of the nation, internal as well as external, was
conceived as holy. It certainly did not mean that the almighty
Creator of heaven and earth was conceived of as having first made
a covenant with this one people that by them He might be truly
known and worshipped. It was not as if Jehovah had originally
been regarded as the God of the universe who subsequently became
the God of Israel; on the contrary, He was primarily Israel's
God, and only afterwards (very long afterwards) did He come to
be regarded as the God of the universe. For Moses to have given
to the Israelites an "enlightened conception of God" would have
been to have given them a stone instead of bread; it is in the
highest degree probable that, with regard to the essential nature
of Jehovah, as distinct from His relation to men, he allowed them
to continue in the same way of thinking with their fathers. With
theoretical truths, which were not at all in demand, He did not
occupy himself, but purely with practical questions which were
put and urged by the pressure of the times. The religious
starting-point of the history of Israel was remarkable, not for
its novelty, but for its normal character. In all ancient
primitive peoples the relation in which God is conceived to stand
to the circumstances of the nation--in other words,
religion--furnishes a motive for law and morals; in the case of
none did it become so with such purity and power as in that of
the Israelites. Whatever Jehovah may have been conceived to be
in His essential nature-God of the thunderstorm or the like--this
fell more and more into the background as mysterious and
transcendental; the subject was not one for inquiry. All stress
was laid upon His activity within the world of mankind, whose ends
He made one with His own. Religion thus did not make men partakers
in a divine life, but contrariwise it made God a partaker in the
life of men; life in this way was not straitened by it, but enlarged.
The so-called "particularism" of Israel's idea of God was in fact
the real strength of Israel's religion; it thus escaped from barren
mythologisings, and became free to apply itself to the moral
tasks which are always given, and admit of being discharged, only
in definite spheres. As God of the nation, Jehovah became the God
of justice and of right; as God of justice and right, He came to
be thought of as the highest, and at last as the only, power in
heaven and earth.

In the preceding sketch the attempt has been made to exhibit
Mosaism as it must be supposed to have existed on the assumption
that the history of Israel commenced with it, and that for
centuries it continued to be the ideal root out of which that
history continued to grow. This being assumed, we cannot treat
the legislative portion of the Pentateuch as a source from which
our knowledge of what Mosaism really was can be derived; for it
cannot in any sense be regarded as the starting-point of the
subsequent development. If it was the work of Moses, then we
must suppose it to have remained a dead letter for centuries,
and only through King Josiah and Ezra the scribe to have become
operative in the national history (compare sections 8 and 10).
The historical tradition which has reached us relating to the
period of the judges and of the kings of Israel is the main
source, though only of course in an indirect way, of our knowledge
of Mosaism. But within the Pentateuch itself also the historical
tradition about Moses (which admits of being distinguished, and
must carefully be separated, from the legislative, although the
latter often clothes itself in narrative form) is in its main
features manifestly trustworthy, and can only be explained as
resting on actual facts.

From the historical tradition, then, it is certain that Moses was
the founder of the Torah. But the legislative tradition cannot
tell us what were the positive contents of his Torah. In fact it
can be shown that throughout the whole of the older period the
Torah was no finished legislative code, but consisted entirely
of the oral decisions and instructions of the priests, as a whole
it was potential only; what actually existed were the individual
sentences given by the priesthood as they were asked for. Thus
Moses was not regarded as the promulgator once for all of a
national constitution, but rather as the first to call into
activity the actual sense for law and justice, and to begin the
series of oral decisions which were continued after him by the
priests. He was the founder of the nation out of which the Torah
and prophecy came as later growths. He laid the basis of
Israel's subsequent peculiar individuality, not by any one formal
act, but in virtue of his having throughout the whole of his long
life been the people's leader, judge, and centre of union.

A correct conception of the manner in which the Torah was made by
him can be derived from the narrative contained in Exod. xviii.,
but not from the long section which follows, relating to the
Sinaitic covenant (chap. xix. seq.). The giving of the law at
Sinai has only a formal, not to say dramatic, significance. It
is the product of the poetic necessity for such a representation
of the manner in which the people was constituted Jehovah's people
as should appeal directly and graphically to the imagination.
Only so can we justly interpret those expressions according to
which Jehovah with His own mouth thundered the ten commandments
down from the mountain to the people below, and afterwards for
forty days held a confidential conference with Moses alone on the
summit. For the sake of producing a solemn and vivid impression,
that is represented as having taken place in a single thrilling
moment which in reality occurred slowly and almost unobserved.
Why Sinai should have been chosen as the scene admits of ready
explanation. It was the Olympus of the Hebrew peoples, the earthly
seat of the Godhead, and as such it continued to be regarded by
the Israelites even after their settlement in Palestine (Judges
v. 4, 5). This immemorial sanctity of Sinai it was that led to
its being selected as the ideal scene of the giving of the law,
not conversely. If we eliminate from the historical narrative
the long Sinaitic section which has but a loose connection with it,
the wilderness of Kadesh becomes the locality of the preceding
and subsequent events. It was during the sojourn of many years
here that the organisation of the nation, in any historical sense,
took place. "There He made for them statute and ordinance, and
there He proved them," as we read in Exod. xv. 26 in a dislocated
poetical fragment. "Judgment and trial," "Massa and Meribah,"
point to Kadesh as the place referred to; there at all events is
the scene of the narrative immediately following (Exod. xvii. =
Num. xx.), and doubtless also of Exod. xviii.

If the legislation of the Pentateuch cease as a whole to be
regarded as an authentic source for our knowledge of what Mosaism
was, it becomes a somewhat precarious matter to make any
exception in favour of the Decalogue. In particular, the
following arguments against its authenticity must be taken into
(1) According to Exod. xxxiv. the commandments which stood upon
the two tables were quite different.
(2) The prohibition of images was during the older period quite
unknown; Moses himself is said to have made a brazen serpent which
down to Hezekiah's time continued to be worshipped at Jerusalem as
an image of Jehovah.
(3) The essentially and necessarily national character of the older
phases of the religion of Jehovah completely disappears in the quite
universal code of morals which is given in the Decalogue as the
fundamental law of Israel; but the entire series of religious
personalities throughout the period of the judges and the kings--
from Deborah, who praised Jael's treacherous act of murder, to David,
who treated his prisoners of war with the utmost cruelty--make it
very difficult to believe that the religion of Israel was from
the outset one of a specifically moral character. The true spirit
of the old religion may be gathered much more truly from Judges v.
than from Exod. xx.
(4) It is extremely doubtful whether the actual monotheism which
is undoubtedly pre-supposed in the universal moral precepts of
the Decalogue could have formed the foundation of a national
religion. It was first developed out of the national religion at
the downfall of the nation, and thereupon kept its hold upon the
people in an artificial manner by means of the idea of a covenant
formed by the God of the universe with, in the first instance,
Israel alone (compare sections 6-10).

As for the question regarding the historical presuppositions of
Mosaism, there generally underlies it a misunderstanding arising
out of theological intellectualism-an attribute found with
special frequency among nontheologians. Moses gave no new idea
of God to his people. The question whence he could have derived
it therefore need not be raised. It could not possibly be worse
answered, however, than by a reference to his relations witb the
priestly caste of Egypt and their wisdom. It is not to be
believed that an Egyptian deity could inspire the Hebrews of
Goshen with courage for the struggle against the Egyptians, or
that an abstraction of esoteric speculation could become the
national deity of Israel. It is not inconceivable indeed,
although at the same time quite incapable of proof, that Moses
was indebted to the Egyptian priests for certain advantages of
personal culture, or that he borrowed from them on all hands in
external details of organisation or in matters of ritual. But
the origin of the germ which developed into Israel is not to be
sought for in Egypt, and Jehovah has nothing in common with the
colourless divinity of Penta-ur or with the God-forsaken dreariness
of certain modern Egyptologists. That monotheism must have been
a foreign importation, because it is contrary to that sexual
dualism of Godhead which is the fundamental characteristic of
Semitic religion, is an untenable exaggeration which has recently
become popular out of opposition to the familiar thesis about the
monotheistic instinct of the Semites (Noldeke, Literar.
Centralbl., 1877, p. 365). Moab, Ammon, and Edom, Israel's
nearest kinsfolk and neighbours, were monotheists in precisely
the same sense in which Israel itself was; but it would be foolish
surely in their case to think of foreign importation.

Manetho's statements about the Israelites are for the most part
to be regarded as malicious inventions: whether any genuine
tradition underlies them at all is a point much needing to be
investigated. The story of Exod. ii. 1 seq. is a mythus of
frequent recurrence elsewhere, to which no further significance is
attached, for that Moses was trained in all the wisdom of the
Egyptians is vouched for by no earlier authorities than Philo and
the New Testament. According to the Old Testament tradition his
connexion is with Jethro's priesthood or with that of the Kenites.
This historical presupposition of Mosaism has external evidence in
its favour, and is inherently quite probable.


The kingdom of Sihon did not permanently suffice the Israelites,
and the disintegration of the Canaanites to the west of Jordan in
an endless number of kingdoms and cities invited attack. The
first essay was made by Judah in conjunction with Simeon and
Levi, but was far from prosperous. Simeon and Levi were
annihilated; Judah also, though successful in mastering the
mountain land to the west of the Dead Sea, was so only at the cost
of severe losses which were not again made up until the accession
of the Kenite families of the south (Caleb). As a consequence of
the secession of these tribes, a new division of the nation into
Israel and Judah took the place of that which had previously
subsisted between the families of Leah and Rachel; under Israel
were included all the tribes except Simeon, Levi, and Judah,
which three are no longer mentioned in Judges v., where all
the others are carefully and exhaustively enumerated. This
half-abortive first invasion of the west was followed by a second,
which was stronger and attended with much better results. It was
led by the tribe of Joseph, to which the others attached themselves,
Reuben and Gad only remaining behind in the old settlements.
The district to the north of Judah, inhabited afterwards by
Benjamin, was the first to be attacked. It was not until after
several towns of this district had one by one fallen into the
hands of the conquerors that the Canaanites set about a united
resistance. They were, however, decisively repulsed by Joshua
in the neighbourhood of Gibeon; and by this victory the Israelites
became masters of the whole central plateau of Palestine.
The first camp, at Gilgal, near the ford of Jordan, which had
been maintained until then, was now removed, and the ark of Jehovah
brought further inland (perhaps by way of Bethel) to Shiloh, where
henceforward the headquarters were fixed, in a position which
seemed as if it had been expressly made to favour attacks upon
the fertile tract Iying beneath it on the north. The Bne Rachel
now occupied the new territory which up to that time had been
acquired,--Benjamin, in immediate contiguity with the frontier
of Judah, then Ephraim, stretching to beyond Shiloh, and lastly
Manasseh, furthest to the north, as far as to the plain of Jezreel.
The centre of gravity, so to speak, already lay in Ephraim,
to which belonged Joshua and that is mentioned as the last
achievement of Joshua that at the waters of Merom he defeated
Jabin, king of Hazor, and the allied princes of Galilee, thereby
opening up the north for Israelitish settlers. It is quite what
we should expect that a great and united blow had to be struck
at the Canaanites of the north before the new comers could occupy
it in peace; and King Jabin, who reappears at a later date,
certainly does not suit the situation described in Judges iv. v.

The Book of Joshua represents the conquest of western Palestine as
having been the common undertaking of all the tribes together,
which, after the original inhabitants have been extirpated, are
exhibited as laying the ownerless country at Joshua's feet in
order that he may divide it by lot amongst them. But this is a
"systematic" generalisation, contradicted by the facts which we
otherwise know. For we possess another account of the conquest of
Palestine, that of Judges i., which runs parallel with the Book of
Joshua. It is shorter indeed and more superficial, yet in its
entire mode of presenting the subject more historical. According
to its narrative, it appears that Joshua was the leader of Joseph
and Benjamin only, with whom indeed Issachar, Zebulon, Dan,
Naphtali, and Asher made common cause. But before his time the
tribe of Judah had already crossed the Jordan and effected a
lodgment in the territory which lay between the earlier seat of
the nation in the wilderness of Kadesh and its then settlement on
the plateau of Moab, forming in some degree a link of connection
between the two. It might be supposed that the tribe of Judah had
not taken the longer route to the eastward of the Dead Sea at
all, but had already at Kadesh broken off from the main body and
thence turned its steps directly northward. But the representation
actually given in Judges i., to the effect that it was from the
direction of the Jordan and not from that of the Negeb that they
came to take possession of their land, finds its confirmation
in the fact that the southern portion of their territory was
the last to come into their possession. The tradition is
unwavering that Hebron was taken not by Judah but by Caleb,
a family which stood in friendly relations with Israel, but had
no connexion with it by blood. It was only through the policy
of David that Caleb, Othniel, Jerachmeel, and the rest of the
Kenites who had their homes in the Negeb became completely
incorporated with Judah, so that Hebron became at last the capital
of that tribe. Its oldest seats, however, lay further to the
north, in the region of Tekoa, Bethlehem, Baal Judah.

It harmonises well with this view to suppose that Simeon
and Levi must have made at the same time their attempt to
effect a settlement in the hill country of Ephraim. One
of their families, Dinah bath Leah, met with a favourable
reception in the town of Shechem, and began to mix freely with
its population, and thus the way was paved for the establishment
of peaceable relations between the old inhabitants of the land
and the new importations. But these relations were brought to
an end by the two brothers who, in concert it must be supposed
with their sister, fell upon the Shechemites and massacred
them. The final result proved disastrous. The Canaanites
of the surrounding country united against them and completely
destroyed them. There can be no doubt as to the trustworthiness
of the somewhat enigmatical records of those events which are
given in Gen. xlix. and xxxiv.; in no other way is it possible
to explain why Simeon and Levi, which originally came upon the
stage of history on an equal footing with Reuben and Judah, should
have already disappeared as independent tribes at the very
beginning of the period of the judges. Now, that the destruction
of Shechem by the Manassite Abimelech is quite distinct from the
attack made by Simeon and Levi need hardly be said. On the
other hand, the occurrence cannot be regarded as pre-Mosaic, but
must be assigned to a time previous to the conquest of the hill
country of Ephraim by Joseph; for after Joseph's settlement
there the two sons of Leah had manifestly nothing more to hope
for in that locality. We are shut up, therefore, to the
conclusion that they crossed the Jordan at the same time as Judah
separated himself from the main body in search of a suitable
territory. That Simeon accompanied Judah in the first westward
attempt is expressly stated in Judges i. The fate of Levi,
again, cannot be separated from that of Simeon (Gen. xlix. 5-7);
that he is not expressly mentioned in Judges i. ought not to
cause surprise, when it is considered that later generations which
regarded Levi as neither more nor less than a priest would have
some difficulty in representing him as a thoroughly secular
tribe. Such nevertheless he must have been, for the poet in Genesis
xlix. 5-7 puts him on a footing of perfect equality with Simeon,
and attributes to both brothers a very secular and bloodthirsty
character; he has no conception that Levi has a sacred vocation
which is the reason of the dispersion of the tribe; the
dispersion, on the contrary, is regarded as a curse and no
blessing, an annihilation and not the means of giving permanence
to its tribal individuality. The shattered remains of Simeon,
and doubtless those of Levi also, became incorporated with Judah,
which thenceforward was the sole representative of the three sons
of Leah, who according to the genealogy had been born immediately
after Reuben the first-born. Judah itself seems at the same time
to have suffered severely. Of its three older branches, Er, Onan,
and Shelah, one only survived, and only by the accession of
foreign elements did the tribe regain its vigour,--by the fresh
blood which the Kenites of the Negeb brought. For Zarah and
Pharez, which took the place of Er and Onan after these had
disappeared, belonged originally, not to Israel, but to Hezron or
the Kenites; under this designation are included families like
those of Othniel, Jerachmeel, and Caleb, and, as has been already
remarked, even in David's time these were not reckoned as strictly
belonging to Judah. Thus the depletion which the tribe had to
suffer in the struggle with the Canaanites at the beginning of the
period of the judges was the remote cause of the prominence which,
according to 1Chronicles ii., the Bne Hezron afterwards attained in
Judah. The survivors of Simeon also appear to have been forced
back upon these Hezronites in the Negeb; the cities assigned to
them in the Book of Joshua all belong to that region.

Even after the united resistance of the Canaanites had been broken,
each individual community had still enough to do before it could
take firm hold of the spot which it had searched out for itself or
to which it had been assigned. The business of effecting permanent
settlement was just a continuation of the former struggle, only
on a diminished scale; every tribe and every family now fought
for its own land after the preliminary work had been accomplished
by a united effort. Naturally, therefore, the conquest was at first
but an incomplete one. The plain which fringed the coast was
hardly touched; so also the valley of Jezreel with its girdle
of fortified cities stretching from Acco to Bethshean. All that
was subdued in the strict sense of that word was the mountainous
land, particularly the southern hill country of "Mount Ephraim;"
yet, even here the Canaanites retained possession of not a few
cities, such as Jebus, Shechem, Thebez. It was only after the
lapse of centuries that all the lacunae were filled up, and the
Canaanite enclaves made tributary.

The Israelites had the extraordinarily disintegrated state of
the enemy to thank for the ease with which they had achieved
success. The first storm subsided comparatively soon, and
conquerors and conquered alike learned to accommodate themselves
to the new circumstances. Then the Canaanites once more collected
all their energies to strike a blow for freedom. Under the
hegemony of Sisera a great league was formed, and the plain of
Jezreel became the centre of the reorganised power which made
itself felt by its attacks both northwards and southwards. The
Israelites were strangely helpless; it was as if neither shield
nor spear could be found among their 40,000 fighting men. But at
last there came an impulse from above, and brought life and soul to
the unorganised mass; Deborah sent out the summons to the tribes,
Barak came forward as their leader against the kings of Canaan who
had assembled under Sisera's command by the brook of Kishon. The
cavalry of the enemy was unable to withstand the impetuous rush
of the army of Jehovah, and Sisera himself perished in the
flight. From that day the Canaanites, although many strong
towns continued to be held by them, never again raised their

After these occurrences some further changes of a fundamental
character took place in the relations of the tribes. The Danites
proved unable to hold against the forward pressure of the
Philistines their territory on the coast to the west of Benjamin
and Ephraim; they accordingly sought a new settlement, which was
found in the north at the foot of Hermon. In this way all the
secondary tribes westward of Jordan (Asher, Naphtali, Dan) came
to have their seats beside each other in the northern division
of the land. Eastward of Jordan, Reuben rapidly fell from his
old prominence, sharing the fate of his next eldest brethren
Simeon and Levi. When Eglon of Moab took Jericho, and laid
Benjamin under tribute, it is obvious that he must previously
have made himself master of Reuben's territory. This territory
became thenceforward a subject of constant dispute between Moab
and Israel; the efforts to recover it, however, did not proceed
from Reuben himself, but from Gad, a tribe which knew how to
assert itself with vigour against the enemies by which it was
surrounded. But if the Hebrews lost ground in the south, they
materially enlarged their borders in the north of the land
eastward of Jordan. Various Manassite families, finding their
holdings at home too small, crossed the Jordan and founded
colonies at Bashan and northern Gilead. Although this
colonisation, on account of the rivalry of the Aramaeans, who
were also pressing forward in this direction, was but
imperfectly successful, it nevertheless was of very great
importance, inasmuch as it seemed to give new strength to the bonds
that united the eastern with the western tribes. Not only was
Gilead not lost; it even became a very vigorous member of the
body politic. /1/

1. It is probable that Manasseh's migration to the territory
eastward of Jordan took place from the west, and later than the
time of Moses. The older portions of the Hexateuch speak not of
two and a half but only of two trans-Jordanic tribes, and exclude
Manasseh; according to them the kingdom of Sihon alone was subdued
by Moses, not that of Og also, the latter, indeed, being a wholly
legendary personage. In the song of Deborah, Machir is reckoned
among the western tribes, and it was not until much later that
this became the designation of the Manassites eastward of Jordan.
It is also worth noticing that Jair's colonisation of northern
Gilead did not take place until the time of the judges (Judges x.
3 seq.), but is related also in Num. xxxii. 39-42.

The times of agitation and insecurity which followed upon the
conquest of Palestine invited attacks by the eastern nomads, and
once more the Israelite peasantry showed all its old helplessness,
until at last the indignation of a Manassite of good family,
Gideon or Jerubbaal, was roused by the Midianites, who had
captured some of his brothers and put them to death. With his
family, that of Abiezer, he gave pursuit, and, overtaking the enemy
on the borders of the wilderness, inflicted on them such
chastisement as put an end to these incursions. His heroism
had consequences which reached far beyond the scope of his original
purpose. He became the champion of the peasantry against the
freebooters, of the cultivated land against the waste; social
respect and predominance were his rewards. In his native town
of Ophrah he kept up a great establishment, where also he built
a temple with an image of Jehovah overlaid with the gold which
he had taken from the Midianites. He transmitted to his sons
an authority, which was not limited to Abiezer and Manasseh
alone, but, however slightly and indirectly, extended over
Ephraim as well.

On the foundations laid by Gideon Abimelech his son sought to
establish a kingship over Israel, that is, over Ephraim and
Manasseh. The predominance, however, which had been naturally
accorded to his father in virtue of his personal merits, Abimelech
looked upon as a thing seized by force and to be maintained with
injustice; and in this way he soon destroyed those fair
beginnings out of which even at that time a kingdom might have
arisen within the house of Joseph. The one permanent fruit of his
activity was that Shechem was destroyed as a Canaanite city and
rebuilt for Israel. /1/

1. On the narratives contained in the Book of Judges see Bleek,
Einl. ins Alte Testament (4th ed.), 88-98, and especially the
sections on Barak and Sisera, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, the Danite
migration, and the Benjamites of Gibeah (93-98).

The most important change of the period of the judges went on
gradually and in silence. The old population of the country,
which, according to Deuteronomy, was to have been exterminated,
slowly became amalgamated with the new. In this way the
Israelites received a very important accession to their numbers.
In Deborah's time the fighting men of Israel numbered 40,000;
the tribe of Dan when it migrated to Laish, counted 600 warriors;
Gideon pursued the Midianites with 300. But in the reigns of Saul
and David we find a population reckoned by millions. The rapid
increase is to be accounted for by the incorporation of the

At the same time the Hebrews learned to participate in the culture
of the Canaanites, and quietly entered into the enjoyment of the
labours of their predecessors. From the pastoral they advanced
to the agricultural stage; corn and wine, the olive and the fig,
with them are habitually spoken of as the necessaries of life.
It was not strange that this change in the manner of their
everyday life should be attended with certain consequences in
the sphere of religion also. It is inconceivable that the
Israelites should have brought with them out of the desert the
cultus they observed in the time of the kings (Exod. xxii. xxiii.
xxiv.), which throughout presupposed the fields and gardens of
Palestine; they borrowed it from the Canaanites. /1/

1. In the earliest case where the feast of the ingathering,
afterwards the chief feast of the Israelites, is mentioned, it is
celebrated by Canaanites of Shechem in honour of Baal (Judges ix.

This is confirmed by the fact that they took over from these the
"Bamoth" or "high places" also, notwithstanding the prohibition
in Deuteronomy xii.

It was natural enough that the Hebrews should also appropriate
the divinity worshipped by the Canaanite peasants as the giver
of their corn, wine, and oil, the Baal whom the Greeks identified
with Dionysus. The apostasy to Baal, on the part of the first
generation which had quitted the wilderness and adopted a settled
agricultural life, is attested alike by historical and prophetical
tradition. Doubtless Baal, as the god of the land of Canaan, and
Jehovah, as the God of the nation of Israel, were in the first
instance co-ordinated. /2/

2. In Judges v. Jehovah retains his original abode in the
wilderness of Sinai, and only on occasions of necessity quits it
to come to Palestine.

But it was not to be expected that the divinity of the land
should permanently be different from the God of the dominant
people. In proportion as Israel identified itself with the
conquered territory, the divinities also were identified. Hence
arose a certain syncretism between Baal and Jehovah, which had not
been got over even in the time of the prophet Hosea. At the same
time the functions of Baal were more frequently transferred to
Jehovah than conversely. Canaan and Baal represented the female,
Israel and Jehovah the male, principle in this union.

Had the Israelites remained in the wilderness and in barbarism,
the historical development they subsequently reached would hardly
have been possible; their career would have been like that of
Amalek, or, at best, like those of Edom, Moab, and Ammon. Their
acceptance of civilisation was undoubtedly a step in the forward
direction; but as certainly did it also involve a peril. It
involved an overloading, as it were, of the system with materials
which it was incapable of assimilating at once. The material
tasks imposed threatened to destroy the religious basis of the
old national life. The offensive and defensive alliances
among the tribes gradually dissolved under the continuance of
peace; the subsequent occupation of the country dispersed those
whom the camp had united. The enthusiastic _elan_ with which the
conquest had been achieved gave way to the petty drudgery by which
the individual families, each in its own circle, had to accommodate
themselves to their new surroundings. Yet under the ashes the
embers were still aglow; and the course of history ever fanned
them anew into flame, bringing home to Israel the truths that man
does not live by bread alone, and that there are other things of
worth than those which Baal can bestow; it brought ever again
into the foreground the divineness of heroical self sacrifice of
the individual for the good of the nation.


The Philistines were the means of arousing from their slumber
Israel and Jehovah. From their settlements by the sea on the
low-lying plain which skirts the mountains of Judah on the west,
they pressed northwards into the plain of Sharon, and thence into
the plain of Jezreel beyond, which is connected with that of
Sharon by the upland valley of Dothan. Here, having driven out
the Danites, they came into direct contact with the tribe of
Joseph, the chief bulwark of Israel, and a great battle took
place at Aphek, where the plain of Sharon merges into the valley
of Dothan. The Philistines were victorious and carried off as a
trophy the Israelite standard, the ark of Jehovah. Their further
conquests included, not only the plain of Jezreel and the hill
country bordering it on the south, but also the proper citadel
of the country, "Mount Ephraim." The old sanctuary at Shiloh
was destroyed by them; its temple of Jehovah thenceforward lay
in ruins. Their supremacy extended as far as to Benjamin; the
Philistines had a nec,ib in Gibeah. /1/

1. _nec,ib_ is an Aramaic word of uncertain meaning. In the name of
the town _Nec,ibin_ (Nisibis) it certainly seems to mean "pillars;"
according to 1Kings iv. 5 and xxii. 48 (where it is pointed
niccab), "governor", seems the best translation, and this is the
only rendering consistent with the expression in 1Samuel xiii. 3
("Jonathan slew the _necib_," &c.).

But the assertion that they had confiscated all weapons and
removed all smiths must be regarded as an unhistorical
exaggeration; under their regime at all events it was possible
for the messengers of a beleaguered city on the east of Jordan
to summon their countrymen in the west to their relief.

The shame of the Israelites under the reproach of Philistine
oppression led, in the first instance, to a widespread exaltation
of religious feeling. Troops of ecstatic enthusiasts showed
themselves here and there, and went about with musical
accompaniments in processions which often took the shape of wild
dances; even men of the most sedate temperament were sometimes
smitten with the contagion, and drawn into the charmed circle.
In such a phenomenon, occurring in the East, there was nothing
intrinsically strange; among the Canaanites, such "Nebiim"--for
so they were styled--had long been familiar, and they continued
to exist in the country after the old fashion, long after their
original character, so far as Israel was concerned, had been wholly
lost. The new thing at this juncture was that this spirit passed
over upon Israel, and that the best members of the community were
seized by it. It afforded an outlet for the suppressed excitement
of the nation.

The new-kindled zeal had for its object, not the abolition of Baal
worship, but resistance to the enemies of Israel. Religion and
patriotism were then identical. This spirit of the times was
understood by an old man, Samuel ben Elkanah, who lived at Ramah
in south-western Ephraim. He was not himself one of the Nebiim;
on the contrary, he was a seer of that old type which had for a
long time existed amongst the Hebrews much as we find it amongst
the Greeks or Arabs. Raised by his foreseeing talent to a
position of great prominence, he found opportunity to occupy
himself with other questions besides those which he was
professionally called on to answer. The national distress
weighed upon his heart; the neighbouring peoples had taught him to
recognise the advantages which are secured by the consolidation of
families and tribes into a kingdom. But Samuel's peculiar merit
lay, not in discovering what it was that the nation needed, but in
finding out the man who was capable of supplying that need.
Having come to know Saul ben Kish, a Benjamite of the town of
Gibeah, a man of gigantic form, and swift, enthusiastic nature, he
declared to him his destiny to become king over Israel.

Saul very soon had an opportunity for showing whether Samuel
had been a true seer or no. The city of Jabesh in Gilead was
besieged by the Ammonites, and the inhabitants declared
themselves ready to surrender should they fail in obtaining
speedy succour from their countrymen. Their messengers had
passed through all Israel without meeting with anything more
helpful than pity, until at last tidings of their case reached
Saul as he was returning with a yoke of oxen from the field.
Hewing his cattle in pieces, he caused the portions to be sent
in all directions, with the threat that so should it be done
with the oxen of every one who should refuse to help in relieving
Jabesh. The people obeyed the summons, fell suddenly one morning
upon the Ammonites, and delivered the beleaguered city.

Having thus found Saul the man for their need, they refused to
let him go. In Gilgal, Joshua's old camp, they anointed him king.
The act was equivalent to imposing upon him the conduct of the
struggle against the Philistines, and so he understood it. The
first signal for the attack was given by his son Jonathan, when
he slew the _necib_ of the Philistines at Gibeah. These in
consequence advanced in force towards the focus of the revolt,
and took up a position opposite Gibeah on the north, being divided
from it only by the gorge of Michmash. Only a few hundred
Benjamites ventured to remain with Saul. The struggle opened
with a piece of genuine old heroic daring. While the Philistines
were dispersed over the country in foraging expeditions, Jonathan,
accompanied by his armour-bearer only, and without the knowledge
of Saul, made an attack upon the weak post which they had left
behind at the pass of Michmash. After the first had been
surprised and overmastered, the others took to flight, no doubt
in the belief that the two assailants were supported. They
carried their panic with them into the half-deserted camp, whence
it spread among the various foraging bands. The commotion was
observed from Gibeah opposite, and, without pausing to consult the
priestly oracle, King Saul determined to attack the camp. The
attempt was completely successful, but involved no more than the
camp and its stores; the Philistines themselves effected an
unmolested retreat by the difficult road of Bethhoron.

Saul was no mere raw stripling when he ascended the throne;
he already had a grown-up son at his side. Nor was he of
insignificant descent, the family to which he belonged being a
widespread one, and his heritage considerable. His establishment
at Gibeah was throughout his entire reign the nucleus of his
kingdom. The men on whom he could always reckon were his Benjamite
kinsmen. He recognised as belonging to him no other public
function besides that of war; the internal affairs of the country
he permitted to remain as they had been before his accession.
War was at once the business and the resource of the new kingdom.
It was carried on against the Philistines without interruption,
though for the most part not in the grand style but rather in a
series of border skirmishes. /1/

1 As regards the position of Samuel in the theocracy and the
relation in which the stood to Saul, the several narratives in the
Book of Samuel differ widely. The preceding account, so far as it
relates to Samuel, is based upon 1Samuel ix., x. 1-15, xi., where
he appears simply as a Roeh at Ramah, and has nothing to do
either with the administration of the theocracy or with the
Nebiim. Compare Prolegomena above, chap. VII.

It is not without significance that the warlike revival of the
nation proceeded from Benjamin. By the battle of Aphek Ephraim
had lost at once the hegemony and its symbols (the camp-sanctuary
at Shiloh, the ark of the covenant). The centre of Israel
gravitated southward, and Benjamin became the connecting link
between Ephraim and Judah. It would appear that there the tyranny
of the Philistines was not so much felt. Their attacks never were
made through Judah, but always came from the north; on the other
hand, people fled from them southwards, as is instanced by the
priests of Shiloh, who settled in Nob near Jerusalem. Through
Saul Judah entered definitely into the history of Israel; it
belonged to his kingdom, and it more than most others supplied him
with energetic and faithful supporters. His famous expedition
against the Amalekites had been undertaken purely in the
interests of Judah, for it only could possibly suffer from their
marauding hordes.

Among the men of Judah whom the war brought to Gibeah, David ben
Jesse of Bethlehem took a conspicuous place; his skill on the harp
brought him into close relations with the king. He became Saul's
armour-bearer, afterwards the most intimate friend of his son,
finally the husband of his daughter. While he was thus winning
the affections of the court, he at the same time became the
declared favourite of the people, the more so because unexampled
good fortune attended him in all he undertook. This excited the
jealousy of Saul, naturally enough in an age in which the king
always required to be the best man. Its first outburst admitted
of explanation as occasioned by an attack of illness; but soon
it became obtrusively clear that the king's love for his
son-in-law had changed into bitter hatred. Jonathan warned his
friend and facilitated his flight, the priests of Nob at the same
time providing him with arms and food. He went into the
wilderness of Judah, and became the leader of a miscellaneous band
of outlaws who had been attracted by his name to lead a roving life
under his leadership. His kinsmen from Bethlehem were of their
number, but also Philistines and Hittites. Out of this band David's
bodyguard subsequently grew, the nucleus of his army. They reckoned
also a priest among them, Abiathar ben Ahimelech ben Ahitub ben
Phinehas ben Eli, the solitary survivor of the massacre of the
sons of Eli at Nob which Saul had ordered on account of suspected
conspiracy with David. Through him David was able to have
recourse to the sacred lot before the ephod. In the end he found
it impossible to hold his own in Judah against Saul's
persecutions, especially as his countrymen for the most part
withheld their assistance. He therefore took the desperate step
of placing his services at the disposal of Achish the Philistine
king of Gath, by whom he was received with open arms, the town of
Ziklag being assigned him as a residence. Here with his band he
continued to follow his old manner of life as an independent
prince, subject only to an obligation to render military service
to Achish.

Meanwhile the Philistines had once more mustered their forces and
marched by the usual route against Israel. Saul did not allow
them to advance upon Gibeah, but awaited their attack in the plain
of Jezreel. A disastrous battle on Mount Gilboa ensued; after
seeing his three eldest sons fall one after another at his side,
Saul threw himself upon his sword, and was followed by his
armour-bearer. The defeat seemed to have undone the work of his
life. The immediate consequence at least was that the Philistines
regained their lost ascendancy over the country to the west of
Jordan. Beyond Jordan, however, Abner, the cousin and
generalissimo of Saul, made his son Ishbaal, still a minor, king
in Mahanaim, and he was successful in again establishing the
dominion of the house over Jezreel, Ephraim, and Benjamin,
of course in uninterrupted struggle with the Philistines.

But he did not regain hold of Judah. David seized the opportunity
to set up for himself, with the sanction of the Philistines, and,
it may safely be presumed, as their vassal, a separate
principality which had its centre of gravity in the south, which
was inhabited, not by the tribe of Judah properly so called, but
by the Calebites and Jerachmeelites. This territory Abner
disputed with him in vain. In the protracted feud between the
houses of Saul and David, the fortunes of war declared themselves
ever increasingly for the latter. Personal causes at last
brought matters to a crisis. Abner, by taking to himself a
concubine of Saul's called Rizpah, had roused Ishbaal's suspicions
that he was aiming at the inheritance, and was challenged on the
point. This proved too much for his patience, and forthwith he
abandoned the cause of his ward (the hopelessness of which had
already perhaps become apparent), and entered into negotiations
with David at Hebron. When about to set out on his return he fell
by the hand of Joab in the gate of Hebron, a victim of jealousy
and blood-feud. His plans nevertheless were realised. His death
left Israel leaderless and in great confusion; Ishbaal was personally
insignificant, and the people's homage continued to be rendered to
him only out of grateful fidelity to his father's memory. At
this juncture he also fell by assassins' hands. As he was
taking his midday rest, and even the portress had gone to sleep
over her task of cleaning wheat, two Benjamite captains introduced
themselves into his palace at Mahanaim and murdered him in the
vain hope of earning David's thanks. The elders of Israel no
longer hesitated about offering David the crown, which he accepted.

His residence was immediately transferred from Hebron to Jebus,
which until then had remained in possession of the Canaanites,
and first derives historical importance from him. It lay on the
border between Israel and Judah,--still within the territory of
Benjamin, but not far from Bethlehem; near also to Nob, the old
priestly city. David made it not only the political but also
the religious metropolis by transferring thither from
Kirjathjearim the ark of the covenant, which he placed within
his citadel on what afterwards became the temple hill.

Still the crown was far from being a merely honorary possession;
it involved heavy responsibilities, and doubtless what
contributed more than anything else to David's elevation to the
throne was the general recognition of the fact that he was the man
best fitted on the whole to overtake the labour it brought with
it, viz., the prosecution of the war with the Philistines, a war
which was as it were the forge in which the kingdom of Israel was
welded into one. The struggle began with the transference of the
seat of royalty to Jerusalem; unfortunately we possess only
scanty details as to its progress, hardly anything more indeed
than a few anecdotes about deeds of prowess by individual heroes.
The result was in the end that David completed what Saul had
begun, and broke for ever the Philistine yoke. This was
undoubtedly the greatest achievement of his reign.

From the defensive against the Philistines David proceeded to
aggressive war, in which he subjugated the three kinsfolk of
Israel,--Moab, Ammon, and Edom. He appears to have come into
conflict first with the Moabites, whom he vanquished and treated
with savage atrocity. Not long afterwards the king of Ammon died,
and David sent an embassy of condolence to Hanun his successor.
Hanun suspected in this a sinister design,--a suspicion we can
readily understand if David had already, as is probable,
subjugated Moab,--and with the utmost contumely sent back the
messengers to their master forthwith, at the same time making
preparations for war by entering into alliance with various
Syrian kings, and particularly with the powerful king of Soba /1/

1. Soba appears to have been situated somewhat to the north of
Damascus, and to have bordered on the west with Hamath. The
Aramaeans were beginning even at that period to press westwards;
the Hittites, Phoenicians, and Israelites had common interests
against them. To the kingdom of Soba succeeded afterwards that
of Damascus.

David took the initiative, and sent his army under command of Joab
against Rabbath-Ammon. The Syrians advanced to the relief of the
besieged city; but Joab divided his forces, and, leaving his
brother Abishai to hold the Ammonites in the town in check,
proceeded himself against the Syrians and repulsed them. On their
afterwards threatening to renew the attack in increased force,
David went against them in strength and defeated them at Helam
"on the river." It seems that as a result of this the kingdom of
Soba was broken up and made tributary to Damascus. Rabbath-Ammon
could not now hold out any longer, and the Ammonites shared the
fate of their Moabite brethren. Finally, Edom was about the same
time coerced and depopulated; and thus was fulfilled the vision of
Balaam,--the youngest of the four Hebrew nationalities trod the
three elder under his feet.

So far as external foes were concerned, David henceforward had
peace; but new dangers arose at home within his own family.
At once by ill-judged leniency and equally ill-timed severity
he had completely alienated his son Absalom, who, after Amnon's
death, was heir-apparent to the throne. Absalom organised a
revolt against his father, and to foster it availed himself of a
misunderstanding which had arisen between David and the men of
Judah, probably because they thought they were not treated with
sufficient favour. The revolt had its focus in Hebron;
Ahithophel, a man of Judah, was its soul; Amasa, also of Judah,
its arm; but the rest of Israel was also drawn into the
rebellion, and only the territory to the east of Jordan remained
faithful. Thither David betook himself with precipitancy, for
the outbreak had taken him completely by surprise. At Mahanaim,
which had once before been the centre from which the kingdom was
regained, he collected his faithful followers around him with his
600 Cherethites and Pelethites for a nucleus, Absalom against
Ahithophel's advice allowing him time for this. In the
neighbourbood of Mahanaim, in the wood of Ephraim, the decisive
blow was struck. Absalom fell, and with his death the rebellion
was at an end. It was Joseph that, in the first instance,
penitently sent a deputation to the king to bring him back. Judah,
on the other hand, continued to hold aloof. Ultimately a piece
of finesse on the king's part had the effect of bringing Judah
also to its allegiance, though at the cost of kindling such
jealousy between Israel and Judah that Sheba the Benjamite raised
a new revolt, this time of Israelites, which was soon, however,
repressed by Joab.

David seems to have died soon afterwards. His historical
importance is very great. Judah and Jerusalem were wholly his
creation, and, though the united kingdom of Israel founded by him
and Saul together soon fell to pieces, the recollection of it
nevertheless continued in all time to be proudly cherished by
the whole body of the people. His personal character has been
often treated with undue disparagement. For this we must chiefly
blame his canonisation by the later Jewish tradition which made a
Levitical saint of him and a pious hymn-writer. It then becomes a
strange inconsistency that he caused military prisoners to be
treated with barbarity, and the bastard sons of Saul to be hanged
up before the Lord in Gibeon. But if we take him as we find him,
an antique king in a barbarous age, our judgment of him will be
much more favourable. The most daring courage was combined in him
with tender susceptibility; even after he had ascended the throne
be continued to retain the charm of a pre-eminent and at the same
time child-like personality. Even his conduct in the affair of
Uriah is not by any means wholly to his discredit; not many
kings can be mentioned who would have shown repentance public and
deep such as he manifested at Nathan's rebuke. Least to his
credit was his weakness in relation to his sons and to Joab.
On the other hand, the testament attributed to him in 1Kings ii.
cannot be justly laid to his charge; it is the libel of a later
hand seeking to invest him with a fictitious glory. In like
manner it is unjust to hold him responsible for the deaths of
Abner and Amasa, or to attribute to him any conspiracy with
the hierocracy for the destruction of Saul, and thus to deprive
him of the authorship of the elegy in 2Samuel i, which certainly
was not the work of a hypocrite.

Solomon had already reached the throne, some time before his
father's death, not in virtue of hereditary right, but by palace
intrigue which had the support of the bodyguard of the Six
Hundred. His glory was not purchased on the battlefield. So far
was he from showing military capacity that he allowed a new
Syrian kingdom to arise at Damascus, a far more dangerous thing for
Israel than that of Soba which had been destroyed, and which it
succeeded. During this reign Edom also regained its independence,
nothing but the port of Elath remaining in Solomon's hands. As
regards Moab and Ammon we have no information; it is not
improbable that they also revolted. But if war was not Solomon's
forte, he certainly took much greater pains than either of his
predecessors in matters of internal administration; according to
tradition, the wisdom of the ruler and the judge was his special
"gift." Disregarding the tribal system, he divided his kingdom
into twelve provinces, over each of which he placed a royal
governor, thus making a beginning of vigorous and orderly
administration. /1/

1. Very possibly the Canaanites, whose complete absorption falls
within this period, were an element that helped to loosen the
bonds of tribal unity, and consolidate a state in its place.

Judah alone he exempted from this arrangement, as if to show
special favour. For his aim was less the advantage of his
subjects than the benefit of his exchequer, and the same object
appears in his horse traffic (1Kings ix. 19), his Ophir trade
(1Kings x. 11), and his cession of territory to Hiram (1Kings ix.
11). His passions were architecture, a gorgeous court, and the
harem, in which he sought to rival other Oriental kings, as for
example his Egyptian father-in-law. For this he required copious
means-forced labour, tribute in kind, and money. He had
especially at heart the extension and improvement of Jerusalem as
a strong and splendid capital; the temple which he built was only
a portion of his vast citadel, which included within its precincts
a number of private and public buildings designed for various

It is plain that new currents were introduced into the stream of
the nation's development by such a king as this. As formerly,
after the occupation, Canaanite culture had come in, so now, after
the establishment of the kingdom, the floodgate was open for the
admission of Oriental civilisation in a deeper and wider sense.
Whatever the personal motives which led to it may have been,
the results were very importent, and by no means disadvantageous
on the whole. On the basis of the firmer administration now
introduced, stability and order could rest; Judah had no cause
to regret its acceptance of this yoke. Closer intercourse with
foreign lands widened the intellectual horizon of the people,
and at the same time awakened it to a deeper sense of its own
peculiar individuality. If Solomon imported Phoenician and
Egyptian elements into the worship of Jehovah at his court
temple, the rigid old Israelite indeed might naturally
enough take offence (Exodus xx. 24-26), but the temple itself
nevertheless ultimately acquired a great and positive
importance for religion. It need not be denied that mischievous
consequences of various kinds slipped in along with the good.
The king, moreover, can hardly be blamed for his conduct in
erecting in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem altars to deities of
Ammon and Egypt. For those altars remained undisturbed until
the time of Josiah, although between Solomon and him there
reigned more than one pious king who would certainly have
destroyed them had he found them as offensive as did the author
of Deuteronomy.


After the death of Solomon the discontent which had been aroused by
his innovations, and especially by the rigour of his government,
openly showed itself against his successor; and when Rehoboam
curtly refused the demands which had been laid before him by an
assembly of the elders at Shechem, they withdrew from their
allegiance and summoned to be their king the Ephraimite Jeroboam
ben Nebat, who already had made an abortive attempt at revolt
from Solomon, and afterwards had taken refuge in Egypt. Only
Judah and Jerusalem remained faithful to the house of David.
Among the causes of the revolt of the ten tribes, jealousy of
Judah must certainly be reckoned as one. The power of Joseph had
been weakened by the Philistines, and by the establishment of the
monarchy the centre of gravity had been shifted from the north
where it naturally lay. But now it was restored to its old seat;
for once more it was situated, not in Judah, but in Joseph.
Monarchy itself, however, was not abolished by the revolting
tribes, conclusively showing how unavoidable and how advantageous
that institution was now felt to be; but at the same time they did
not refrain from attempts to combine its advantages with those
of anarchy, a folly which was ultimately the cause of their ruin.
As for their departure from the Mosaic cultus observed at
Jerusalem on the other hand, it was first alleged against them as
a sin only by the later Jews. At the time religion put no
obstacle in the way of their separation; on the contrary, it
actually suggested and promoted it (Ahijah of Shiloh). The
Jerusalem cultus had not yet come to be regarded as the alone
legitimate; that instituted by Jeroboam at Bethel and at Dan was
recognised as equally right; images of the Deity were exhibited
in all three places, and indeed in every place where a house of
God was found. So far as the religious and intellectual life of
the nation was concerned, there was no substantial difference
between the two kingdoms, except indeed in so far as new displays
of vigorous initiative generally proceeded from Israel. /1/

1. Even in the Deuteronomic redaction of the Book of Kings indeed,
and still more by the Chronicler, the political rebellion of
Israel is regarded as having been ecclesiastical and religious in
its character. The Book of Chronicles regards Samaria as a
heathen kingdom, and recognises Judah alone as Israel. But in
point of fact Judah takes up the history of Israel only after
the fall of Samaria; see ## 6, 7.

Rehoboam did not readily accept the situation; he sought to
reduce the revolt by force of arms, with what degree of success
is shown by the fact that his rival found himself constrained to
take up his residence at Peniel (near Mahanaim) on the other side
of Jordan. The invasion of Shishak, however, who took Jerusalem
and burnt it, gave Jeroboam at last a breathing space. The feud
continued indeed, but Rehoboam could no longer dream of bringing
back the ten tribes. The scale by and by turned in Israel's
favour. King Baasha, who had seated himself on the throne in
place of Nadab, Jeroboam's son, took the offensive, and Asa ben
Rehoboam had no help for it but to call in Benhadad of Damascus
against his adversary. In this way he gained his immediate
purpose, it is true, but by the most dangerous of expedients.

Baasha's son Elah was supplanted by his vizier Zimri, who,
however, was in his turn unable to hold his own against Omri, who
had supreme command of the army. Against Omri there arose in
another part of the country a rival, Tibni ben Ginath, who
succeeded in maintaining some footing until his death, when Omri
became supreme. Omri must be regarded as the founder of the first
dynasty, in the proper sense of that word, in Israel, and as the
second founder of the kingdom itself, to which he gave a permanent
capital in Samaria. The Bible has hardly anything to tell us about
him, but his importance is evident from the fact that among the
Assyrians "the kingdom of Omri" / 1/

1. Bit Humri, like )OIKOS *LUSANIOU, and similar territorial names
in Syriac.

was the ordinary name of Israel. According to the inscription of
Mesha, it was he who again subjugated Moab, which had become
independent at the death of David or of Solomon. He was not so
successful against the Damascenes, to whom he had to concede
certain privileges in his own capital (1Kings xx. 34) /2/

2. Omri's accession is to be placed somewhere about 900 B.C It is
a date, and the first, that can be determined with some precision,
if we place the battle of Karkar (854) near the end of Ahab's
reign, and take the servitude of Moab, which lasted forty years
and ended with Ahab's deatb, to begin in Omri's first decade.

Ahab, who succeeded Omri his father, seems during the greater part
of his reign to have in some sort acknowledged Syrian suzerainty.
In no other way can we account for the fact that in the battle of
Karkar against the Assyrians (854 B.C.) a contingent was
contributed by him. But this very battle made the political
situation so clear that he was led to break off his relations with
Damascus. With this began a series of ferocious attacks on Israel
by Benhadad and Hazael. They were met by Ahab with courage
and success, but in the third year of that fifty years' war he
fell in the battle at Ramoth Gilead (c. 851).

After the events recorded in 1Kings xx., a forced alliance with
Damascus on the part of Samaria is incredible; but the idea of
spontaneous friendly relations is also inadmissible. Schrader
indeed finds support for the latter theory in 1Kings xx. 34;
but in that passage there is no word of any offensive or defensive
alliance between the rival kings; all that is stated is that Ahab
releases the captive Benhadad on condition (BBRYT) that the latter
undertakes certain obligations, particularly those of keeping the
peace and restoring the cities which had been taken. By this
arrangement no change was made in the previously strained
relations of the two kingdoms; and, moreover, the BRYT was not
kept (xxii. 1 seq.). Not much nearer the truth than the
preceding is the view that the danger threatened by Assyria drove
the kings of Syria and Palestine into one another's arms, and so
occasioned an alliance between Ahab and Benhadad also. For if
feelings of hostility existed at all between the two last named,
then Ahab could not do otherwise than congratulate himself that
in the person of Shalmaneser II. there had arisen against
Benhadad an enemy who would be able to keep him effectually in
check. That Shalmaneser might prove dangerous to himself probably
did not at that time occur to him; but if it had he would still
have chosen the remote in preference to the immediately
threatening evil. For it was the political existence of Israel
that was at stake in the struggle with Damascus; in such
circumstances every ally would of course be welcome, every enemy
of the enemy would be hailed as a friend, and the political
wisdom which Max Duncker attributes to Ahab would have been
nothing less than unpardonable folly. The state of matters was at
the outset in this respect just what it continued to be throughout
the subsequent course of events; the Assyrian danger grew in
subsequent years, and with it grew the hostility between Damascus
and Samaria. This fact admits only of one explanation,--that the
Israelites utilised to the utmost of their power for their own
protection against the Syrians the difficulties into which the
latter were thrown by Shalmaneser II., and that these in their
turn, when the Assyrians gave them respite, were all the fiercer
in their revenge. On the evidence of the monuments and the Bible
we may even venture to assert that it was the Assyrian attacks upon
Damascus which at that time preserved Israel from becoming
Aramaic,--of course only because Israel made the most of them for
her political advantage.

Assuming that Ahab the Israelite (Ahabu Sirlaai) fought in the
battle of Karkar (854) on the side of the king of Damascus, it
was only because he could not help himself; but if it is actually
the case that he did so, the battle of Karkar must have taken
place BEFORE the events recorded in 1Kings xx.

The Moabites took advantage of an accession under such critical
circumstances to shake off the yoke imposed by Omri forty years
before; an accurate account of their success, obviously written
while the impression of it was still fresh, /1/ has come down to

1. It is obvious that Mesha's narrative is to be taken with
2Kings i. 1, and not with 2Kings iii.

us in the famous inscription of King Mesha. Ahaziah, Ahab's
immediate successor, was obliged to accept the situation; after
his early death a futile attempt again to subjugate them was made
by his brother Joram. Such a campaign was possible to him only
in the event of the Syrians keeping quiet, and in point of fact
it would appear that they were not in a position to follow up the
advantage they had gained at Ramoth; doubtless they were
hampered by the inroads of the Assyrians in 850 and 849. As soon
as they got a little respite, however, they lost no time in
attacking Joram, driving him into his capital, where they
besieged him. Samaria had already been brought to the utmost
extremities of famine, when suddenly the enemy raised the siege
on account of a report of an invasion of their own land by the
"Egyptians and Hittites." Possibly we ought to understand by these
the Assyrians rather, who in 846 renewed their attacks upon Syria;
to ordinary people in Israel the Assyrians were an unknown quantity,
for which it would be natural in popular story to substitute something
more familiar. This turn of affairs relieved Joram from his straits;
it would even seem that, favoured by a change of dynasty at
Damascus, he had succeeded in taking from the Syrians the fortress
of Ramoth in Gilead, which had been the object of Ahab's
unsuccessful endeavours, when suddenly there burst upon the house
of Omri the overwhelming catastrophe for which the prophets had
long been preparing.

When the prophets first made their appearance, some time before the
beginning of the Philistine war, they were a novel phenomenon in
Israel; but in the interval they had become so naturalised that
they now had a recognised and essential place in connection with
the religion of Jehovah. They had in the process divested
themselves of much that had originally characterised them, but
they still retained their habit of appearing in companies and
living together in societies, and also that of wearing a peculiar
distinctive dress. These societies of theirs had no ulterior
aims; the rabbinical notion that they were schools and academies
in which the study of the Torah and of sacred history was pursued
imports later ideas into an earlier time. First-rate importance
on the whole cannot be claimed for the Nebiim, but occasionally
there arose amongst them a man in whom the spirit which was
cultivated within their circles may be said to have risen to the
explosive pitch. Historical influence was exercised at no time
save by these individuals, who rose above their order and even
placed themselves in opposition to it, but always at the same time
had their base of operations within it. The prototype of this
class of exceptional prophets, whom we not unjustly have been
accustomed to regard as the true, is Elijah of Thisbe, the
contemporary of Ahab.

ln compliment to Jezebel his wife, Ahab had set up in Samaria a
temple with richly endowed religious services in honour of the
Syrian Baal. In doing so he had no intention of renouncing
Jehovah; Jehovah continued to be the national God after whom he
named his sons Ahaziah and Jehoram. The destruction of Jehovah's
altars or the persecution of His prophets was not at all proposed,
or even the introduction of a foreign cultus elsewhere than in
Samaria. Jehovah's sovereignty over Israel being thus only
remotely if at all imperilled, the popular faith found nothing
specially offensive in a course of action which had been followed
a hundred years before by Solomon also. Elijah alone was strenuous
in his opposition; the masses did not understand him, and were far
from taking his side. To him only, but not to the nation, did it
seem like a halting between two opinions, an irreconcilable
inconsistency, that Jehovah should be worshipped as Israel's God
and a chapel to Baal should at the same time be erected in Israel.

In solitary grandeur did this prophet tower conspicuously over
his time; legend, and not history, could alone preserve the
memory of his figure. There remains a vague impression that with
him the development of Israel's conception of Jehovah entered upon
a new stadium, rather than any data from which it can be
ascertained wherein the contrast of the new with the old lay.
After Jehovah, acting more immediately within the political
sphere, had established the nation and kingdom, he now began in
the spiritual sphere to operate against the foreign elements, the
infusion of which previously had been permitted to go on almost
unchecked. /1/

1. It is worth noticing how much more frequent from this period
onwards proper names compounded with the word Jehovah become.
Among the names of the judges and of the kings before Ahab in
Israel and Asa in Judah, not a single instance occurs;
thenceforward they become the rule.

The Rechabites, who arose at that time, protested in their zeal
for Jehovah altogether against all civilisation which presupposes
agriculture, and in their fundamental principles aimed at a
recurrence to the primitive nomadic life of Israel in the
wilderness; the Nazarites abstained at least from wine, the chief
symbol of Dionysiac civilisation. In this indeed Elijah was not
with them; had he been so, he would doubtless have been
intelligible to the masses. But, comprehending as he did the
spirit from which these demonstrations proceeded, he thought of
Jehovah as a great principle which cannot coexist in the same
heart with Baal. To him first was it revealed that we have not
in the various departments of nature a variety of forces worthy
of our worship, but that there exists over all but one Holy One
and one Mighty One, who reveals Himself not in nature but in law
and righteousness in the world of man. The indignation he displayed
against the judicial murder at Jezreel was as genuine and strong
as that which he manifested against the worship of Baal in
Samaria; the one was as much a crime against Jehovah as the

Elijah ascended to heaven before he had actually achieved much
in the world. The idea which his successors took from him was that
it was necessary to make a thorough clearance from Samaria of the
Baal worship and of the house of Ahab as well. For this practical
end Elisha made use of practical means. When Elijah, after the
murder of Naboth, had suddenly appeared before Ahab and
threatened him with a violent end, an officer of high command had
been present, Jehu ben Nimshi, and he had never forgotten the
incident. He now found himself at the head of the troops at
Ramoth Gilead after the withdrawal to Jezreel of Joram ben Ahab
from the field to be healed of his wound. To Elisha the moment
seemed a suitable one for giving to Jehu in Jehovah's name the
command now to carry out Elijah's threat against the house of
Ahab. Jehu gained over the captains of the army, and carried out
so well the task with which the prophet had commissioned him that
not a single survivor of Ahab's dynasty or of his court was left.
He next extirpated Baal and his worshippers in Samaria. From that
date no worship of foreign gods seems ever to have recurred in
Israel. Idolatry indeed continued to subsist, but the images,
stones, and trees, even the seraphim apparently, belonged to the
cultus of Jehovah, or were at least brought into relation with it.

Jehu founded the second and last dynasty of the kingdom of Samaria
His inheritance from the house of Omri included the task of
defending himself against the Syrians. The forces at his disposal
being insufficient for this, he resorted to the expedient of
seeking to urge the Assyrians to renew their hostilities against
the Arameeans. For this end his ambassadors carried presents to
Shalmaneser II.; these were not of a regular but only of an
occasional character, but the vanity of the great king represents
them as the tribute of a vassal. In the years 842 and 839 Assyrian
campaigns against Hazael of Damascus actually took place; then
they were intermitted for a long time, and the kings of Samaria,
Jehu and his two successors, were left to their own resources.
These were evil times for Israel. With a barbarity never
intermitted the frontier war went on in Gilead, where Ammon and
Moab showed themselves friendly to the Syrian cause (Amos i.);
occasionally great expeditions took place, one of which brought
King Hazael to the very walls of Jerusalem. It was only with
the greatest difficulty that Israel's independence was maintained.
Once more religion went hand in hand with the national cause;
the prophet Elisha was the main stay of the kings in the struggle
with the Syrians, "the chariot and horsemen of Israel." Joash ben
Joahaz ben Jehu at last succeeded in inflicting upon Syria several
blows which proved decisive. Thenceforward Israel had nothing to
fear from that quarter. Under Joash's son, Jeroboam II., the
kingdom even reached a height of external power which recalled the
times of David. Moab was again subdued; southwards the frontier
extended to the brook of the wilderness (Amos vi. 14), and northward
to Hamath.


Before proceeding to consider the rise of those prophets who were
the makers of the new Israel, it will not be out of place here to
cast a glance backwards upon the old order of things which
perished with the kingdom of Samaria. With reference to any
period earlier than the century 850-750 B.C., we can hardly be
said to possess any statistics. For, while the facts of history
admit of being handed down with tolerable accuracy through a
considerable time, a contemporary literature is indispensable for
the description of standing conditions. But it was within this
period that Hebrew literature first flourished--after the Syrians
had been finally repulsed, it would seem. Writing of course had
been practiced from a much earlier period, but only in formal
instruments, mainly upon stone. At an early period also the
historical sense of the people developed itself in connection
with their religion; but it found its expression in songs, which
in the first instance were handed down by word of mouth only.
Literature began with the collection and writing out of those
songs; _the Book of the Wars of the Lord_ and _the Book of Jashar_
were the oldest historical books. The transition was next made to
the writing of prose history with the aid of legal documents and
family reminiscences; a large portion of this early
historiography has been preserved to us in the Books of Judges,
Samuel, and Kings. Contemporaneously also certain collections of
laws and decisions of the priests, of which we have an example in
Exodus xxi. xxii., were committed to writing. Somewhat later,
perhaps, the legends about the patriarchs and primitive times,
the origin of which cannot be assigned to a very early date, /1/

1. Even the Jehovistic narratives about the patriarchs belong
to the time when Israel had already become a powerful kingdom;
Moab, Ammon,, and Edom had been subjugated (Genesis xxvii. 29),
and vigorous frontier wars were being carried on with the Syrians
about Gilead (Genesis xxxi. 52). In Genesis xxvii. 40
allusion is made to the constantly repeated subjugations of Edom
by Judah, alternating with successful revolts on the part of the
former; see Delitzsch on K)$R;.

received literary shape. Specially remarkable is the rise of
a written prophecy. The question why it was that Elijah and
Elisha committed nothing to writing, while Amos a hundred years
later is an author, hardly admits of any other answer than that
in the interval a non-literary had developed into a literary age.
How rapid the process was may be gathered from a comparison between
the singularly broken utterances of the earlier oracle contained
in Isaiah xv. xvi. with the orations of Isaiah himself.

We begin our survey with that of the family relations. Polygamy
was rare, monogamy the rule; but the right of concubinage was
unlimited. While a high position was accorded both by affection
and custom to the married wife, traces still existed of a state of
society in which she was regarded as property that went with the
inheritance. The marriage of relations was by no means
prohibited; no offence was taken at the circumstance that Abraham
was the husband of his sister (by a different mother). Parents
had full power over their children; they had the right to sell
and even to sacrifice them. In this respect, however, the
prevailing usage was mild, as also in regard to slaves, who
socially held a position of comparative equality with their
masters, and even enjoyed some measure of legal protection.
Slavery, it is plain, had not thc same political importance as
with the Greeks and Romans; it could have been abolished without
any shock to the foundations of the state.

Throughout this period agriculture and gardening continued to be
regarded as man's normal calling (Genesis iii. iv.); the laws
contained in Exod. xxi.-xxiii. rest entirely upon this
assumption. To dwell in peace under his vine and under his
fig-tree was the ideal of every genuine lsraelite. Only in a few
isolated districts, as in the country to the east of Jordan and
in portions of Judah, did the pastoral life predominate. Art and
industry were undeveloped, and were confined to the production of
simple domestic necessaries.

Commerce was in old time followed exclusively by the Canaanite
towns, so that the word "Canaanite" was used in the general sense
of "trader." But by and by Israel began to tread in Canaan's
footsteps (Hosea xii. 8, 9), /1/

1. "Canaan (i.e., Ephraim Canaanised) has deceitful balances in his
hand, and loves to overreach. Ephraim indeed saith, I am become
rich, I have gained weealth; but all his profits will not suffice
for (expiation of) the guilt which he has incurred."

The towns grew more influential than the country; money notably
increased; and the zeal of piety was quite unable to arrest the
progress of the change which set in. The kings themselves, from
Solomon onwards, were the first to set the bad example; they eagerly
sought to acquire suitable harbours, and in company or in competition
with the Syrians entered upon large commercial transactions.
The extortions of the corn-market, the formation of large estates,
the frequency of mortgages, all show that the small peasant
proprietorship was unable to hold its own against the accumulations
of wealth. The wage-receiving class increased, and cases in which
free Hebrews sold themselves into slavery were not rare.

On all hands the material progress of the commonwealth made itself
felt, the old simplicity of manners disappeared, and luxury
increased. Buildings of hewn stone began to be used even by
private individuals. The towns, especially the chief ones, were
fortified; and in time of war refuge was sought in them, and not
as formerly in woods and caves. Even in the time of David the
Israelites always fought on foot; but now horses and chariots were
regarded as indispensable. The bow came to be the principal weapon
of offence, and a military class appears to have sprung up.

The monarchy retained in the kingdom of the ten tribes its
military character; the commander-in-chief was the first person
in the kingdom. In internal affairs its interference was slight;
with systematic despotism it had little in common, although of
course within its narrow sphere it united executive and
legislative functions. It was little more than the greatest house
in Israel. The highest official was called "master of the
household." The court ultimately grew into a capital, the
municipal offices of which were held by royal officials. The
provinces had governors who, however, in time of war withdrew to
the capital (1Kings xx.); the presumption is that their sole
charge was collection of the revenue.

The state was not charged with affairs of internal administration;
all parties were left free to maintain their own interests. Only
in cases in which conflicts had emerged in consequence could the
king be approached. Ruling and judging were regarded as one and
the same; there was but one word for both (2Kings xv. 5).
Still, the king was not altogether the only judge; there were, in
fact, a number of independent jurisdictions. Wherever within a
particular circle the power lay, there the right of judging was
also found, whether exercised by heads of families and communities
or by warriors and powerful lords. It was only because the king
was the most powerful that he was regarded as the judge of last
resort; but it was equally permitted to apply to him from the first.
Of method and rule in these things there was but little; a man was
glad to find any court to receive his complaint. Of course without
complaint one got no justice. The administration of justice was at
best but a scanty supplement to the practice of self-help. The heir
of the murdered man would not forego the right of blood revenge; but
his family or the commune gave him aid, and in case of need took
his place, for bloodshed had at all hazards to be atoned for.

The firm establishment of civil order was rendered all the more
difficult by the continual wars and violent changes of dynasty
which ever and anon made its very existence problematical.
Power, which is more important than righteousness to a judicatory,
was what the government was wanting in In the simpler social
conditions of the earlier time a state which was adapted merely
for purposes of war might easily be found to work satisfactorily
enough, but a more complex order of things had now arisen. Social
problems had begun to crop up; for the poor and the proletariat
the protection of a thoughtful government had come to be required,
but was not forthcoming.

But these defects did not check all progress. The weakness of the
government, the want of political consolidation, were insufficient
to arrest intellectual advance or to corrupt the prevailing moral
tone and feeling for justice; in fact it was precisely in this
period (the period in which the main part of the Jehovistic
history must have been written) that the intellectual and moral
culture of the people stood at its highest. Even when the
machinery of the monarchy had got out of order, the organisation
of the families and communes continued to subsist; the smaller
circles of social life remained comparatively untouched by the
catastrophes that shook the greater. Above all, the national
religion supplied the spiritual life with an immovable basis.

The favourite illustrations of the power of religion in the Israel
of that period are drawn from the instances of great prophets who
raised kings out of the dust and smote them to it again. But the
influence and importance of these is generally exaggerated in the
accounts we have. That among them there occasionally occurred
manifestations of such power as to give a new turn in history is
indeed true; a figure like that of Elijah is no mere invention.
But such a man as he was a prophecy of the future rather than an
actual agent in shaping the present. On the whole, religion was
a peaceful influence, conserving rather than assailing the existing
order of things. The majority of the prophets were no revolutionists;
rather in fact were they always too much inclined to prophesy in
accordance with the wishes of the party in power. Besides, in
ordinary circumstances their influence was inferior to that of
the priests, who were servants of royalty at the chief
sanctuaries, but everywhere attached to the established order.

The Torah of Jehovah still continued to be their special charge.
It was not even now a code or law in our sense of the word;
Jehovah had not yet made His Testament; He was still living and
active in Israel. But the Torah appears during this period to
have withdrawn itself somewhat from the business of merely
pronouncing legal decisions and to have begun to move in a freer
field. It now consisted in teaching the knowledge of God, in
showing the right God-given way where men were not sure of
themselves. Many of the counsels of the priests had become a
common stock of moral convictions, which, indeed, were all of them
referred to Jehovah as their author, yet had ceased to be matters
of direct revelation. Nevertheless the Torah had still occupation
enough, the progressive life of the nation ever affording matter
for new questions.

Although in truth the Torah and the moral influence of Jehovah
upon the national life were things much weightier and much more
genuinely Israelitic than the cultus, yet this latter held on the
whole a higher place in public opinion. To the ordinary man it
was not moral but liturgical acts that seemed to be truly
religious. Altars of Jehovah occurred everywhere, with sacred
stones and trees--the latter either artificial (Asheras) or
natural--beside them; it was considered desirable also to have
water in the neighbourhood (brazen sea). In cases where a temple
stood before the altar it contained an ephod and teraphim, a kind
of images before which the lot was cast by the priest. Of the
old simplicity the cultus retained nothing; at the great
sanctuaries especially (Bethel, Gilgal, Beersheba) it had become
very elaborate. Its chief seasons were the agricultural
festivals--the passover, the feast of weeks, and most especially
the feast of the ingathering at the close of the year. These were
the only occasions of public worship properly so called, at which
every one was expected to attend; in other cases each worshipper
sought the presence of God only in special circumstances, as for
example at the beginning and at the end of particular undertakings.
The cultus, as to place, time, matter, and form, belonged almost
entirely to the inheritance which Israel had received from Canaan;
to distinguish what belonged to the worship of Jehovah from that
which belonged to Baal was no easy matter. /1/

1. The description of the cultus by the Prophet Hosea shows this
very clearly. It is obvious enough, however, that the object
was to serve JEHOVAH, and not any foreign deity, by this worship.

It was the channel through which also paganism could and did ever
anew gain admittance into the worship of Jehovah. Yet that
publicity of the cultus which arose out of the very nature of Jehovah,
and in consequence of which the teraphim even were removed from the
houses to the temples, cannot but have acted as a corrective against
the most fatal excesses.

As for the substance of the national faith, it was summed up
principally in the proposition that Jehovah is the God of Israel.
But "God" was equivalent to "helper;" that was the meaning of
the word. "Help," assistance in all occasions of life,--that was
what Israel looked for from Jehovah, not "salvation" in the
theological sense. The forgiveness of sins was a matter of
subordinate importance; it was involved in the "help," and was a
matter not of faith but of experience. The relation between the
people and God was a natural one as that of son to father; it did
not rest upon observance of the conditions of a pact. But it was
not on that account always equally lively and hearty; Jehovah
was regarded as having varieties of mood. To secure and retain
His favour sacrifices were useful; by them prayer and
thanksgiving were seconded.

Another main article of faith was that Jehovah judges and
recompenses, not after death (then all men were thought to be
alike), but upon the earth. Here, however, but little account
was taken of the individual; over him the wheel of destiny
remorselessly rolled; his part was resignation and not hope.
Not in the career of the individual but in the fate of families
and nations did the righteousness of Jehovah find scope for its
manifestation; and this is the only reason why the religion
could dispense with the conceptions of heaven and hell. For the
rest, it was not always easy to bring the second article into
correlation with the first; in practice the latter received the
superior place.

It need hardly be said that superstition of every kind also
abounded. But the superstition of the Israelites had as little
real religious significance as had that poetical view of nature
which the Hebrews doubtless shared in greater or less degree with
all the other nations of antiquity.


Under King Jeroboam II., two years before a great earthquake that
served ever after for a date to all who had experienced it, there
occurred at Bethel, the greatest and most conspicuous sanctuary
of Jehovah in Israel, a scene full of significance. The multitude
were assembled there with gifts and offerings for the observance
of a festival, when there stepped forward a man whose grim
seriousness interrupted the joy of the feast. It was a Judaean,
Amos of Tekoa, a shepherd from the wilderness bordering on the
Dead Sea. Into the midst of the joyful tones of the songs which
with harp and tabor were being sung at the sacred banquet he
brought the discordant note of the mourner's wail. For over all
the joyous stir of busy life his ear caught the sounds of death:
"the virgin of Israel is fallen, never more to rise;
lies prostrate in her own land with no one to lift her up."
He prophesied as close at hand the downfall of the kingdom which
just at that moment was rejoicing most in the consciousness of
power, and the deportation of the people to a far-off northern land.

There was something rotten in the state of Israel in spite of
the halcyon days it enjoyed under Jeroboam II. From the indirect
results of war, from changes in the tenure and in the culture of
the soil, from defective administration of justice, the humbler
classes had much to suffer; they found that the times were evil.
But it was not this that caused Amos to foresee the end of Israel,
not a mere vague foreboding of evil that forced him to leave his
flocks; the dark cloud that threatened on the horizon was plain
enough--the Assyrians. Once already at an earlier date they had
directed their course south-westwards, without, however, on that
occasion becoming a source of danger to the Israelites. But now
that the bulwark against the Assyrians, Aram of Damascus, was
falling into ruins, a movement of these against Lebanon in the time
of Jeroboam II. opened to Israel the alarming prospect that
sooner or later they would have to meet the full force of the
irresistible avalanche.

What then? The common man was in no position truly to estimate
the danger; and, so far as he apprehended it, he lived in the
firm faith that Jehovah would not abandon His people in their
straits. The governing classes prided themselves on the military
resources of Israel, or otherwise tried to dismiss from their
minds all thought of the gravity of the situation. But Amos heard
the question distinctly enough, and did not hesitate to answer
it: the downfall of Israel is imminent. It was nothing short of
blasphemy to utter anything of this kind, for everything, Jehovah
Himself included, depended on the existence of the nation. But
the most astounding thing has yet to come; not Asshur, but Jehovah
Himself, is bringing about the overthrow of Israel; through Asshur
it is Jehovah that is triumphing over Israel. A paradoxical
thought--as if the national God were to cut the ground from under
His own feet! For the faith in Jehovah as the God of Israel was
a faith that He intervenes on behalf of His people against all
enemies, against the whole World; precisely in times of danger
was religion shown by staying oneself upon this faith. Jehovah
might indeed, of course, hide His face for a time, but not
definitively; in the end He ever arose at last against all
opposing powers. "The day of the Lord" was an object of hope
in all times of difficulty and oppression; it was understood
as self-evident that the crisis would certainly end in favour of
Israel. Amos took up the popular conception of that day; but how
thoroughly did he change its meaning! "Woe to them who long
for the day of the Lord!--What to you is the day of the Lord,?
It is darkness, not light." His own opposition to the popular
conception is formulated in a paradox which he prefixes as theme
to the principal section of his book:--"Us alone does Jehovah
know," say the Israelites, drawing from this the inference that
He is on their side, and of course must take their part. "You
only do I know," Amos represents Jehovah as saying, "therefore do
I visit upon you all your sins."

If the question, Whereon did Jehovah's relation to Israel
ultimately rest? be asked, the answer, according to the popular
faith, must substantially be that it rested on the fact that
Jehovah was worshipped in Israel and not among the heathen, that
in Israel were His altars and His dwelling. His cultus was the
bond between Him and the nation; when therefore it was desired
to draw the bond still closer, the solemn services of religion
were redoubled. But to the conception of Amos Jehovah is no
judge capable of accepting a bribe; with the utmost indignation
he repudiates the notion that it is possible to influence
Him by gifts and offerings. Though Israel alone has served Him
he does not on that account apply any other standard to it than
to other nations (chaps. i. ii.). If Israel is better known to
Him, it does not follow that on that account He shuts His eyes and
blindly takes a side. Neither Jehovah nor His prophet recognises
two moral standards; right is everywhere right, wrong always
wrong, even though committed against Israel's worst enemies (ii. 1).
What Jehovah demands is righteousness,--nothing more and
nothing less; what He hates is injustice. Sin or offence to the
Deity is a thing of purely moral character; with such emphasis
this doctrine had never before been heard. Morality is that for
the sake of which all other things exist; it is the alone
essential thing in the world. It is no postulate, no idea, but at
once a necessity and a fact, the most intensely living of
personal powers-Jehovah the God of Hosts. In wrath, in ruin, this
holy reality makes its existence known; it annihilates all that
is hollow and false.

Amos calls Jehovah the God of Hosts, never the God of Israel.
The nation as such is no religious conception to him; from its mere
existence he cannot formulate any article of faith. Sometimes it
seems as if he were denying Israel's prerogative altogether. He
does not really do so, but at least the prerogative is
conditional and involves a heavy responsibility. The saying in
iii. 2 recalls Luke xii. 47. The proposition "Jehovah knows
Israel" is in the mouth of Amos almost the same thing as "Israel
knows Jehovah; " save only that this is not to be regarded as
any merit on Israel's part, but as a manifestation of the grace of
Jehovah, who has led His people by great deeds and holy men, and
so made Himself known. Amos knows no other truth than that
practical one which he has found among his own people and nowhere
else, Iying at the foundation of life and morality, and which he
regards as the product of a divine providential ordering of
history. From this point of view, so thoroughly Israelitish, he
pronounces Israel's condemnation. He starts from premisses
generally conceded, but he accentuates them differently and
draws from them divergent conclusions.

Amos was the founder, and the purest type, of a new phase of
prophecy. The impending conflict of Asshur with Jehovah and
Israel, the ultimate downfall of Israel, is its theme. Until that
date there had subsisted in Palestine and Syria a number of petty
kingdoms and nationalities, which had their friendships and
enmities with one another, but paid no heed to anything outside
their own immediate environment, and revolved, each on its own axis,
careless of the outside world, until suddenly the Assyrians burst
in upon them. These commenced the work which was carried on by
the Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks, and completed by the Romans.
They introduced a new factor, the conception of the world,--the world
of course in the historical sense of that expression. In presence
of that conception the petty nationalities lost their centre of
gravity, brute fact dispelled their illusions, they flung their
gods to the moles and to the bats (Isaiah ii.). The prophets of
Israel alone did not allow themselves to be taken by surprise by
what had occurred, or to be plunged in despair; they solved by
anticipation the grim problem which history set before them.
They absorbed into their religion that conception of the world
which was destroying the religions of the nations, even before it
had been fully grasped by the secular consciousness. Where
others saw only the ruin of everything that is holiest, they saw
the triumph of Jehovah over delusion and error. Whatever else
might be overthrown, the really worthy remained unshaken. They
recognised ideal powers only, right and wrong truth and falsehood;
second causes were matters of indifference to them, they were no
practical politicians. But they watched the course of events
attentively, nay, with passionate interest. The present, which
was passing before them, became to them as it were the plot of a
divine drama which they watched with an intelligence that
anticipated the _denouement_. Everywhere the same goal of the
development, everywhere the same laws. The nations are the
_dramatis personae_, Israel the hero, Jehovah the poet of the
tragedy. /1/

1. In very much the same way the threatened and actual political
annihilation of Ionia led to the rise of Greek philosophy
(Xenophanes, Heraclitus).

The canonical prophets, the series of whom begins with Amos, were
separated by an essential distinction from the class which had
preceded them and which still continued to be the type of the
common prophet. They did not seek to kindle either the
enthusiasm or the fanaticism of the multitude; they swam not
with but against the stream. They were not patriotic, at least
in the ordinary acceptation of that word; they prophesied not good
but evil for their people (Jer. xxviii. 8). Until their time
the nation had sprung up out of the conception of Jehovah; now
the conception of Jehovah was casting the nation into the shade.
The natural bond between the two was severed, and the relation
was henceforward viewed as conditional. As God of the
righteousness which is the law of the whole universe, Jehovah
could be Israel's God only in so far as in Israel the right was
recognised and followed. The ethical element destroyed the
national character of the old religion. It still addressed itself,
to be sure, more to the nation and to society at large than to
the individual; it insisted less upon a pure heart than upon
righteous institutions; but nevertheless the first step towards
universalism had been accomplished, towards at once the general
diffusion and the individualisation of religion. Thus, although
the prophets were far from originating a new conception of God,
they none the less were the founders of what has been called
"ethical monotheism." But with them this ethical monotheism was no
product of the "self-evolution of dogma," but a progressive step
which had been called forth simply by the course of events. The
providence of God brought it about that this call came at an
opportune period, and not too suddenly. The downfall of the nation
did not take place until the truths and precepts of religion were
already strong enough to be able to live on alone; to the
prophets belongs the merit of having recognised the independence
of these, and of having secured perpetuity to Israel by refusing
to allow the conception of Jehovah to be involved in the ruin of
the kingdom. They saved faith by destroying illusion.

The event which Amos had foreseen was not long in coming. The
Israelites flew spontaneously, like "silly doves," into the net
of the Assyrians. Zechariah ben Jeroboam was overthrown after a
short reign, Shallum his murderer and successor was also unable to
hold his own, and was followed after the horrors of a civil war by
Menahem ben Gadi (745 B.C). But Menahem, in the presence of
domestic (and perhaps also foreign) assailants, /1/ had no other

1. It is not inconceivable that the wars carried on by
Tiglath-pileser II. against Hamath had some connection with his
interventions in favour of Menahem. The kingdom of Hamath, which
may have been threatened by Jeroboam II., may have availed
itself of the state of matters which followed his death to secure
its own aggrandisement at Israel's expense; in correspondence
with this attack from the northern side another by Judah in
concert with Hamath may well have been made from the south. In
this way, though not without the aid of pure hypothesis, it might
be possible to fit into the general historical connection the
fragmentary Assyrian notices about Azariah of Judah and his
relations to Hamath; the explanations suggested by the
Assyriologists have hitherto been total failures. But in that
case it would certainly be necessary to assume that the Assyrians
were badly informed as to the nature of the relations between
Hamath and Judah, and also as to the individual who at that time
held the throne of Judah. Uzziah (= Azariah), who in his old age
had become a leper, could only nominally at best have been king
of Judah then.

resort than to purchase by payment of a great tribute the assistance
of King Tiglath-pileser II., who at that time was giving new force
to the Assyrian predominance in these regions. By such means he
succeeded in attaining his immediate end, but the further
consequence was that the rival party in the state turned for
support to Egypt, and Palestine now became the arena of conflict
between the two great world-powers.

Menahem transmitted his kingdom to Pekahiah; Pekahiah was murdered
about 735 B.C. by Pekah, and Pekah himself shortly afterwards
was overthrown. All this happened within a few years. It would

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